Advocates for the stronger-beer bill hope it becomes law - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Advocates for the stronger-beer bill hope it becomes law

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

Right now, if you walk into a Mississippi bar you won't get a lot of craft beers, or strong beers, that are loved and sold just miles away on the other side of the state line in either direction. But, if Governor Phil Bryant signs off on it, Senate Bill 2878 would change that.

Butch Bailey, the President of Raise Your Pints Mississippi, a group that's been lobbying for the expansion of state beer buying, says there are benefits to Mississippi raising its pints.

"Mississippi has some of the most restricted beer laws in the country that in effect ban the majority of the top ranked beers in the world," said Bailey.

The ban restricts the sale of any beer which alcohol by weight exceeds five percent. It's a restriction which led Bailey, and many others to organize the nonprofit group.

According to Bailey, the state's beer laws were never changed when prohibition ended state by state, leaving the Magnolia state with beer laws that some say are primitive.

"We are the only state that still limits the permissible alcohol content in beer through five percent by weight or less. Every other state has either raised its cap or completely removed it," said Bailey.

Now, a bill could changed all that, adjusting alcohol content from five percent to eight percent. A move Bailey says needs to happen, because the mandated law percentage is holding Mississippi back.

"It also limits brands from even bringing any of their products into Mississippi, because why come here and sale half your portfolio when you can go to Alabama and sale all of it," said Bailey.

Bailey says not being able to sell stronger beer also stifles small businesses.

"We only have one brewery here in Mississippi and a big part of that is because we have laws that restrict our businesses,"said Bailey.

 At Keg and Barrel, owner John Neal says the sale of stronger beer will only increase his business.

"I think it will be great for the economy and great for my business," said Neal.

Neal says over the last ten years the craft beer business has grown, leaving Mississippi behind, and customers asking for products he can't carry.

"Oh, it happens all the time, especially people that are traveling from out of state. They ask and we tell them we got a five percent cap," said Neal.

Some are concerned stronger beer could lead to more drunk driving.

"It's really just a bad argument. I could sell hard grain alcohol here, which I choose not to, but I can't serve a beer at eight percent? These are expensive beers for very mature people. There hasn't been a problem in any other states, I don't see why there would be a problem here," said Neal.

Bailey says there are benefits to raising the percentage. 

"The state would collect more revenue from the sale of these, in taxes, so the state should see at least in a little small way increase revenue without raising taxes. Right now we need that," said Bailey.

Copyright 2012 WDAM. All rights reserved.

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